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A few additional notes on "face-saving" A few additional notes on "face-saving"
by Joseph Gatt
2020-10-18 10:10:07
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Received a few more questions on “face-saving” cultures, and here are the answers.

Q: What are the differences between dating in face-saving cultures and dating in “free” cultures?

A: In free cultures, the dating game is usually one where two people “try” to make each other comfortable. Because two people are always from different backgrounds and don't always share the same habits, ideally, they will try to adjust their habits to be comfortable around each other first. If they are comfortable enough, they go on to getting married and having children and so on.

societ001_400But in free cultures the notion of comfort is very important, and when one or both parties feel uncomfortable around each other, they “break up.”

In “face-saving” cultures, dating is not always about making each other comfortable, it's about making each other “look good” in front of other people. Even when that involves sacrificing comfort.  

So in face-saving cultures, two people who date will constantly be “manipulating” their image to try to figure out how to “look good” in front of society.

So dating in face-saving cultures can lead to two people being frustrated with each other, in some cases hating each other, yet the two people stay together for public relations reasons.

Also note that in face-saving cultures when you love you pretend to hate, and when you hate you pretend to love.

Why? Because if you “confess” that you love, that will get you manipulated. If you “confess” that you hate, you'll get thrown out.

In free cultures, love doesn't always lead to manipulation, as there tends to be a culture of independence and individualism. But in face-saving cultures, many relationships are “co-dependent” and you have two people try to depend on each other as much as possible, and tend to depend on a larger group (usually family and religious groups).

So in free cultures, a couple will look for comfort. In face-saving cultures, a couple will look for a good image, and will try to conform to whatever good behavior society imposes.

Now in cross-cultural dating, say, when one is from a “free” culture and the other is from a “face-saving” culture, this is where it gets interesting.

You're going to have the “free” man or woman chasing comfort, and the “face-saving” man or woman trying to play with the image a bit. Can this work?

It does work in some cases. Face-saving men and women for example are famous for being more comfortable giving up “comfort” or adjusting to their partner's comfort, because that's familiar turf in face-saving nations. The free man or woman wouldn't mind playing this image game for a day or two.

Where it gets complicated is when the face-saving man or woman wants give up their comfort zone permanently, or the free man or woman has to play this “make believe” game constantly.

In sum, in free cultures, dating is more or less a predictable game. In face-saving cultures, dating tends to be an unpredictable game, but people are used to life being unpredictable.

Q: What are the differences between “confessing romantic feelings” in free societies and in face-saving societies.

A: In free societies, usually, even when you have romantic feelings for someone, you go on a few dates to try to make sure that you are comfortable with each other. You don't bet your life on your romantic feelings.

In face-saving societies, you know how the system works. If you are madly in love, you make it sound like you don't give a damn. If you don't give a damn, you make it sound like you are madly in love.

To give a lively example, in a lot of “face-saving” cultures girls used to try to hit on me by reading books written by famous Jewish authors, in plain sight, or other signals like those. That didn't work out very well, because even if I did invite them for conversation, they would stay glued to their book (and other books) and I would get tired of this cat chasing a mouse game.

In sum, in face-saving cultures, those who have romantic feelings usually repress them. If they're trying to push too hard for a man or a woman to date them, they're usually not very interested in the dating per se, but tend to be looking for something else (either sex, money or reputation or something).

In face-saving cultures, when they're really in love with you, they're usually going to pretend to “act friendly” around you, and hope the friendship develops into something else. If they're “playing hard to get” or being a bit too obvious about their feelings, that usually involves an image game of sorts, and ends up being a relationship “for convenience” purposes.

In sum, in face-saving cultures, if someone's being overly romantic around someone else who is way out of his or her league, that usually involves a game plan of sorts.  

Q: Differences between free workplaces and “face-saving” workplaces.

At free workplaces, again, people try to make each other comfortable and work with each other in predictable ways. Yes, there are conflicts every now and then. But anyone who disrupts the comfortable atmosphere at the workplace usually gets fired.

At face-saving workplaces, it's all about the image. Most people will “pretend” to be busy (and blankly stare at their computer screen all day). Many will “pretend” to get work done (and have meetings devoid of any meaning).

This means that, for example, some people can pretend to spend months on a project, when they are in fact doing nothing. After months of shirking, they might copy a project and claim that's what they had been working on all those months.

In face-saving cultures, anyone who betrays this “make believe” culture is in serious trouble. So anyone who's really getting work done is very likely to get fired. Because the guy or girl who gets work done suddenly reveals and casts light on the fact that the rest of the company is not getting anything done.

Final Q: Differences between hiring practices at free and face-saving cultures

In “free” cultures, hiring practices tend to be improvised. Someone gets fired or quits, we need to replace him, we improvise. Either we put an ad online, or someone recommends someone for the job, or we contact old friends or acquaintances and ask them if they're interested in the job.

In face-saving cultures, employees are part of the company image. So hiring practices tend to be a lot more bureaucratic, and employees will tend to fit something of a “fake elite” profile.

What do I mean by “fake elite”. As I said in the previous question, you don't want to hire people who are really good at working because those guys will cast light on the guys who get nothing done.

So you want to hire people who in appearance are members of the elite, who have all the “nobility” titles, but who also know how to “pretend” to get work done.

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